The African wild dog is a highly endangered predator, the the icon of Madikwe Game Reserve and our lodge’s logo. They need a lot of space, as they traverse and hunt over vast areas and are therefor only found in larger parks and reserves.
It is normally only the alpha pair that breeds and the other pack members help bring up the pups and provide food. Dispersal takes place when a few individuals, of the same sex, break away to find a breakaway group, of the opposite sex, from another pack to join up with, thus establishing a new pack. Since they aren’t territorial, dogs from the North West could potentially make it all the way to Kruger, Kwazulu Natal or even eastern Africa with ease, if there were no fences. Most wild dogs live in the larger reserves and parks, which are fenced in and therefore don’t have the opportunity of naturally dispersing, hence they need some help in doing so and keeping the gene pool of the population healthy.
Ecologists and field guides in Madikwe identified a handful of males breaking away from the main pack about two years ago and it was an excellent opportunity for relocation to another reserve, in the Northern Cape. They were temporarily put in an enclosure for monitoring, while waiting for the transfer go-ahead. It seemed like a rather straight forward procedure, but unfortunately the initial plans didn’t work out and the brothers were kept under surveillance, awaiting another opportunity.
Many of the guides in the Madikwe Game Reserve have been following these dogs which have been kept in the enclosure over the last 2 years, it’s been for the greater good of the population that they have been separated so as to avoid the risk of inbreeding. We have therefor kept our fingers crossed, hoping for them to soon find a permanent home.
A request for guests wanting to assist with the capture and transfer was made from The Parks Board, and thankfully guests and friends of Jaci’s Lodges quickly stepped in to become sponsors and help with the financial side of things. Finally a concrete plan was in place.
At seven o’clock on a chilly and overcast morning in mid-June, two guides and five guests met with the head ecologist in Madikwe, a veterinarian and a few field rangers, just outside the enclosure that had been the dogs’ home for the better part of two years.
Some clever strategising made it possible to dart the dogs with as little disruption as possible.The mixture of drugs that they are darted with makes them lose memory of approximately 30 minutes from before they are darted, preventing them from feeling the effects of stress that is associated with being handled by humans.
Guests and guides alike, are grateful to have been part of this experience and to learn that these three brothers would be on their way to a life in freedom. They will now be taken to Mkuzi Game Reserve in Kwazulu Natal to join up with a female. Once they’re successfully acquainted and settled, they will once again be roaming free, hunting and benefiting from their new surroundings.
Photography: Anja Riise